The adrenalin rush of feeding a big fish right behind the boat, the opportunity to always learn something new, and the chance to escape offshore for the day and totally relax are just a few reasons why Chris Berian, owner of the Rybovich 65, the Coral C, enjoys blue marlin fishing.
Born and raised in Kokomo Indiana, a small town located just outside of Indianapolis, saltwater sports weren’t in Berian’s Midwest mindset until he relocated with his family to Stuart, Florida, in 1977. He was a junior in high school at the time and took to the sea instantly.
“I had a small open center console and I got interested in diving,” he tells. “As soon as I finished school each afternoon I’d be out scuba diving or spear fishing.”
Berian attended Florida Atlantic University and left after a few semesters to enter the business world. He first worked in construction, pushing aside offers from his stepfather to get into the car business. A few years later, he took a second look at the auto industry and this time it clicked with him. Today, he is president of Coral Cadillac in Pompano Beach, Florida.
Scuba diving remained Berian’s number one hobby for several years. Perhaps this was because of his bad luck when he initially tried fishing.
“I never could catch a fish,” he says of his early pursuits. He didn’t target any specie in particular, but just desired to bend the pole. “I’d always come back empty handed and have to face my wife. She’d see my long look and after a while suggested I should just give up.”
Then one day, Berian was talking to well-known charter captain, Tommy Green, and Green identified Berian’s problem.
“Tommy told me not to fish the same way all the time,” he says. “That good advice has worked well for me to this day. Even today, you always wonder why the boat next to you raised a fish and you just drove over that spot and didn’t hook one. I don’t believe it is all luck. It’s about skill and how you learn to improve on your return on time spent fishing.”
Berian didn’t truly become enamored with the sport of fishing until he was in his 30s. He and his family were living at Lighthouse Point at the time and owned a Phoenix 34 that he’d take offshore between Florida and the Bahamas. It was on one of these trips to the Bahamas that he experienced an almost lethal run in with a bull shark.
“I was diving and the shark went right between my legs. I was able to thrash it off, but God was definitely looking down on me,” he tells. “I quit diving at that point. You have to understand how much that incident shook me up. I was a hard core diver, a dive master and dove relentlessly up until that point. After that, I still had a passion to be on the water and decided to turn my attention to sports fishing.”
Prior to this, Berian got a taste of billfishing when he caught his first blue marlin while on a scuba diving trip to Walker’s Cay.
“We had time to kill, so my friend Jerry suggested we rig up a 30-pound rod with ballyhoo, go trolling and try to catch a blue marlin,” he explains. “Sure enough, a blue marlin came up to eat. It spooled me twice before it finally came up and I could make the release. This experience really stuck in my mind.”
Yet, it was a smaller specie – the wahoo – that Berian and his buddies first targeted. He had moved up to a Bertram 50 by this time and enjoyed fishing the Bahamian wahoo tournament from November to February for three seasons.
“We didn’t win any of the tournaments, but we did put some fish on the docks,” he says.
He then started fishing blue marlin tournaments in the Bahamas in 2003.
“I lived in an area where there was great sail fishing,” he explains. “It led me to have an appetite for bigger and more aggressive fish like blue marlin. I had a Bertram 60 at the time and we had a fair amount of success in tournaments such as the BBC (Bahamas Billfish Championships) and Bertram Hatteras Shoot-Out.”
Berian’s best fish story and best day came during a fun day of fishing rather than in a tournament. It was 2008 and his crew of Capt. Erik Johansen and mates Ellezar Arteaga and Anthony Bracomonte had taken Berian’s custom-built, 2006-launched Rybovich 65, the Coral C, to Venezuela.
“We didn’t have an objective for the day when we started out, but then we released a couple of sailfish and had a double header blue marlin and spearfish,” he explains.
This trio of species earned them a Grand Slam and the release of two white marlin a short while later upped the ante to a Super Slam.
“We saw a boat out of Curacao and they were swordfishing,” says Berian. “Captain Johansen got them on the radio with them and they said we should try for a swordfish to make a Fantasy Slam. We didn’t have the right type of weights, but they came over and lent us a bundle of rocks with a speed tape to pull them down to the bottom. We lost the rocks the first time, but had success and ended up releasing a swordfish on the second try. I’ll tell you, there was big party back at the dock that day.”
Berian’s best The Coral C, which Berian describes as a little red Ferrari because it’s so maneuverable and light and allows him to fish any style and in any conditions, was only the second boat to achieve this feat at the time. The other was the Escapade back in 1997.
Of all billfish, Berian likes fishing for blue marlin the best.
Boat Photos - Debra Todd Photography
“What I enjoy is feeding the fish, watching it come right up behind the boat when we’re pitch-baiting,” he says. “I like to have my hand on the rod rather than a blind bite and just hear the click of the line coming out of the rigger. To me, the hook up is the challenge and test of skill as an angler.”
Berian fished about 70 days last year, up from 30 to 40 days in previous years.
“We did a few extra tournaments and pre-fishing days before,” he says. “For example, we fished three sailfish tournaments in the first two months of this year.”
These were the Invitational Billfish Tournament at Pelican Yacht Club in Ft. Pierce, the Florida Keys Gold Cup Sailfish Championship and the Reef Cup Invitational Sailfish Tournament.
“I do have a competitive spirit, but there is a certain amount of tension when fishing a tournament,” Berian says. “That’s why we only fish about four tournaments a year and we choose these tournaments carefully. We pick primarily charitable tournaments in good areas where we can fish against our peers.”
In addition to the sailfish tournaments mentioned above, Berian and his team also like to fish the Custom Boat Shoot-Out. This past summer, they fished the USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin or ‘Boy Scout’ Tournament in St. Thomas for the first time.
“The Boy Scout Tournament had been on our ‘bucket list’ to do for a long time. Plus our captain, Bobby Brown, has had a lot of experience down there, so we went,” he says. “The weather was great. We had a nice time and released four blue marlin. Beyond the tournament, we had some nice family time too. My 12-year-old son released a 300-pound blue marlin on stand-up and his friend from school caught his first blue marlin. My wife and daughter enjoyed the days when we all went cruising together over to Peter Island and the Baths in Virgin Gorda.”
In addition to Florida, the Bahamas, Venezuela and Virgin Islands, Berian has fished the Dominican Republic, Turks & Caicos and Mexico.
“We haven’t been to Bermuda or to the Pacific such as Panama or Costa Rico, but I’d like to,” he says. “In fact, we have Bermuda on the radar for 2012 or 2013.”